Career pivots are common and predictable

mm Bill Pace

Various studies conducted by Pew Research, the Department of Labor, and others clearly demonstrate that people will have more careers and more jobs over their lifetimes than ever before. This is especially true with Millennials, but applies to older workers as well. Everybody’s doing it.

While the data is a bit squishy, the general consensus is that the average worker going forward will have 5 to 7 career changes (that is, significant changes in the scope and nature of their work), and will typically have 10 to 15 different jobs with those careers. In fact, one-third of our workforce in the U.S. will change jobs every 12 months.

Hence, life for most of us will be full of career pivot points – course changes that significantly alter the direction of your career. One day you’re a banker and the next you’re running a non-profit. Sometimes these course changes are well-thought through and sometimes… not so much.

Most pivot points across a lifetime are well-recognized. For example:

  • You fell into your first real job, hate it, and need to change to something totally different
  • You’ve been doing the same kind of work for a decade, are bored, and need to move on
  • You’ve taken time off to be a parent and now want to rejoin the workforce but you want to do something different than before
  • You’re leaving the military to return to civilian life but don’t want to do the same work as in the military
  • You’re in the later stages of your career, you don’t want to stop working, but you want to shift to work with more social purpose (i.e., your “Encore Career”)
  • You’ve retired but want to get back to working but in an entirely new field than before

There are lots of other pivot points that people experience. You might experience some, while I’ve experienced others. Everyone is different. But what is common is you will experience several over your life.

To ensure a fully rewarding and productive career, you need to see your next pivot coming and prepare for it. Like it or not, your career is a huge part of the narrative of your life. The more you can connect the dots, the more successful you will be. Winging it won’t cut it.

Bill Pace is Managing Director of ClearlyNext, a guided online career program that helps people of all backgrounds and incomes figure out what to do next. Read more >